While more education is no guarantee of anything these days, there is one area where more schooling has been shown to offer a benefit. And that is education linked to your own personal health. A new report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Commission to Build a Healthier America finds that those with more education report better health than those with less education.
In every state, adults with less education are more likely to rate their health as less than very good, as opposed to those adults who’ve graduated from college. The Commission looked at data from the U.S. Census Bureau as well as Centers for Disease Control surveys done between 2005 and 2007 where over 174,000 adults from 25-74 rated their own health as either excellent, very good, good, fair or poor. This is the first attempt at ranking U.S. states based on reports of health and education achieved.
According to the findings, the more education a person has, regardless of ethnicity or race, the more likely they were to report better health. Overall, 45% of the survey respondents rated their health as less than very good, with those who hadn’t graduated from high school being 2.5 times more likely to be in less than very good health as were graduates from college. High school graduates, who did not receive college education, are almost twice as likely to be in less than very good health as adults who had graduated from college.
Even a few years of education was enough to make a difference in how healthy a person believed themselves to be. And though disparity in education level and reported health status exists in every state, there are some places where it’s particularly strong. In Mississippi for example, 73% of high school dropouts reported their health as less than very good, while only 37% of the state’s college graduates did the same.
California is another state with a large gap in numbers between less and more educated citizens. This report adds to the growing body of evidence that social factors (like education) do have an impact on health. The Commission is convinced there’s more to staying healthy than focusing on health care. Education, income and other factors aside from things considered by traditional medicine may also help determine how healthy someone is, and how long they might live.
Less education often leads to fewer job opportunities, lower incomes and lots more financial stress. What jobs there are less likely to offer health insurance, so less educated workers will naturally put off preventative care. Sick days in these jobs are more likely to be unpaid, so less educated workers force themselves to go in because they just can’t afford to stay home. And speaking of homes, those with less income have much more limited choices and may be forced to live in an unhealthy home or a neighborhood with more potential risks.
If you have more education your job prospects are probably better, the pay and benefits allowing for you to attend to your health, and the health of your children. You get paid if you stay home sick. Your doctor may take you more seriously, and you’re better able to be your own advocate in terms of care and treatment options. What’s more, you have many more choices in terms of where you live and how you live, your home is more apt to be well constructed and in a safe area.
The Commission has made a point to offer ten recommendations to Americans for improving their health that are based on two ideas, that people need to make healthier choices for themselves and their families, and society needs to remove obstacles and promote opportunities to help people make these types of choices. Until these goals are reached, all of us will keep falling far below the level of good health we might have.